United States Postal Service workers rallied nationwide Tuesday, protesting pending Congressional legislation that they believe would unjustly impact their agency. Several USPS workers gathered in front of Franklin’s post office as well, brandishing signs and giving out informational pamphlets to support their cause.
The organization is under serious financial stress, which has led agency administrators and several Congressional members to propose plans to terminate 120,000 postal employees and close nearly 3,700 facilities nationwide. Postal Service workers are now taking their case to the American people, hoping to publicly convey their message about the solvency of their organization.
“It’s a simple accounting error that has caused our organization to go in the red,” said USPS employee Jerome Hoffart Jr., a former Franklin resident who now works as a letter carrier for the Postal Service in Asheville, NC. Hoffart was one of several protesters demonstrating outside of Franklin’s Post Office on Tuesday.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there and we are trying to inform people about what is going on. We do not operate on taxpayer monies. We are funded mostly by postal stamps,” continued Hoffart. “For some reason, most people don’t know that. We haven’t spent a dime of taxpayer money in over 30 years. Almost all of our revenue comes from stamp sales and services.”
Hoffart Jr. explained that the $20 billion in agency losses that people know about are not the organization’s fault. Rather, the Postal Service has earned a $611 million net profit over the past four fiscal years from delivering the mail. According to Hoffart and other USPS protestors, the red ink on the USPS’s budget was caused by Congress and not the agency.
Hoffart was referring to a 2006 Congressional mandate, supported by then President George W. Bush and the Republican- controlled Congress, that required the USPS to fund future retiree benefits. The reform measure forces the USPS to pay about $5.5 billion annually to fund its 75-year pension liability in 10 years, an unfeasible obligation. According to the United States Postal Service Union, the mandate is responsible for 100 percent of the agency’s debt woes.
USPS employees are targeting Republican sponsored legislation that would overhaul the organization’s finances, a move that protesters believe would encourage layoffs. “This mess is the fault of bad Congressional leadership,” said Hoffart.
Congressman Health Shuler is opposed to the proposed USPS cuts as well. “The plan would put a devastating number of postal employees out of work, especially in rural communities like those across Western North Carolina” said Rep. Shuler. “Now is the time to keep and create jobs, not take them away. I strongly urge the USPS to explore alternative viable options to achieve fiscal solvency before taking drastic action that will ultimately hurt both postal workers and their taxpaying customers.”
Rep. Shuler sent a letter to Postmaster General Pat Donahue on September 14, further expressing his concerns about plans to implement agency cuts, while endorsing other plans to resolve the problem. Recently, Rep. Shuler recently endorsed H.R. 1351, a bill that would relieve the USPS from carrying out the 2006 Congressional mandate.